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Cecil Robert Hillman

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Cecil Robert Hillman (1868-1943)


1943 Obituary [1]

CECIL ROBERT HILLMAN, who as chief mechanical engineer of the San Paulo Railway, Brazil, retired in 1924, and died on 31st March 1943, was the valued friend of many railway engineers, and his loss also will be felt by that wide circle of Brazilians who knew him. Born at Malta in 1868, the son of the Rev. Edward Hillman, Fellow of Pembroke College, Oxford, he received his education at Bristol Grammar School and University College, Bristol. He was then apprenticed to William Adlam, engineer, of Bristol, who at that time was carrying out various important works in England and Scotland, including the Blackpool Tower and the uncompleted Wembley Tower. Subsequently Mr. Hillman received further training in the works of Messrs. P. and W. MacLellan (1890-2 and 1894-6) and Messrs. Heenan and Froude (1892-4). He then took up the appointment, in San Paulo, of chief draughtsman in the Mechanical Department of the San Paulo Railway, Brazil.

In 1901 he became assistant locomotive superintendent, and in 1910 the chief mechanical engineer and locomotive superintendent of the railway. He joined the San Paulo Railway at a very important time, for the construction of the New Serra inclines, with the five high-capacity hauling plants and various auxiliary and ancillary equipments, was in hand, and these, during the trials in 1900, called for important modifications to meet actual working conditions.

One important feature, which has been outstanding in its efficiency and success, was the automatic operation and control of the rope-gripping mechanism which was entirely developed by Hillman, after detailed and careful consideration both from the theoretical and the practical point of view, and has proved entirely reliable after more than forty years' exacting service. As the grips of the ten locomotive brakes in daily service are operated at each of the five bank-heads both in lifting and gripping, and in releasing and freeing the ropes, approximately 2,400 times a day without shock and with absolute certainty of operation, the perfection of the mechanism can be in some measure realized.

Hillman's intimate knowledge of rope haulage by experience gained on the Old and New Serras, and his exhaustive study of the technical works published in various countries, backed up by visits to the actual railway plants described, placed him in a unique position as an authority on railway rope haulage operation.

He also introduced many improvements to the locomotive practice of the railway, and his recommendation that locomotives should be provided with superheat was approved by the directors, and thus the San Paulo Railway had the distinction of placing in 1909 an order for the first British-built locomotives to be provided with Schmidt superheaters. These engines were of the 2-8-0 type, with 211-inch by 26-inch cylinders, and 4 ft. 6 in. wheels, for working over sections on which the ruling gradient was 2 per cent. Hillman was elected a Member of the Institution in 1912.

In his later years, Hillman, realizing that the works of Einstein were difficult for the ordinary person to grasp, wrote a book entitled "A popular introduction to Relativity" which contains a foreword by Sir Arthur Eddington. He also wrote many technical papers and books on astronomy, principally for the Southern Hemisphere. In addition he constructed a celestial globe, telescope, the first planisphere for the Southern Hemisphere, and a practical sidereal clock for ascertaining local time from star positions In 1920 he was appointed a Chevalier of the Order of Leopold II.


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